Putting the tea back into high tea

China Daily (Canada) - - FOOD - By DONNAMAHin Hong Kong fea­tures@chi­nadaily.com.cn

High tea was not some­thing I grew up with, but some­thing I have grown to love. It hasn’t al­ways been about the tea for me, but rather the “event” of high tea — a few leisurely hours sip­ping tea and nib­bling on fin­ger sand­wiches, scones with jam and clot­ted cream, and beau­ti­ful pas­tries and cakes, while catch­ing up with a good friend.

How­ever, it has now been pointed out to methat the fo­cus of high tea should re­ally be about en­joy­ing a re­ju­ve­nat­ing cup of tea in the af­ter­noon be­tween­lunch and din­ner. All the food that comes with the tea is there to com­ple­ment the bev­er­age, rather than the other way around, as it seems to be to­day. In fact, in some restaurants, you can or­der even cof­fee in­stead of tea dur­ing high tea.

Dilmah, a fam­ily-owned and op­er­ated tea com­pany based in Sri Lanka, re­cently held the first Real High Tea Chal­lenge in Hong Kong. Each team of two was chal­lenged to put the “tea” back into high tea. Con­tes­tants needed to demon­strate an un­der­stand­ing of tea and us­ing it as an in­gre­di­ent in bev­er­ages and food items. Ba­si­cally, con­tes­tants needed to show they knew how the fla­vor is af­fected by where tea is grown (the ter­roir), how dif­fer­ent teas taste, dif­fer­ent brew­ing tech­niques, plus the use of other in­gre­di­ents sourced from fam­ily businesses like Dilmah, if pos­si­ble. Out­stand­ing pre­sen­ta­tion and el­e­gant ser­vice were also cri­te­ria.

The 13 teams, each con­sist­ing of a chef and a food-and-bev­er­age per­son, were from ho­tels in Hong Kong. The teams com­peted for gold medals and the chance to at­tend Dilmah’s School of Tea in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and to­com­pete against re­gion­al­com­peti­tors in early 2015.

Each team had to cre­ate a pair­ing, a bev­er­age and a food item, within a spec­i­fied time frame. The con­tes­tants used a min­i­mu­mof four va­ri­eties of tea, served both hot and cold, and with and with­out al­co­hol. Four dif­fer­ent pre-pre­pared high tea nib­bles were paired with the tea bev­er­ages — two sweet and two sa­vory items.

Si­mon Evans, ex­ec­u­tive chef of the Hong Kong Cricket Club, says the chal­lenge for the chefs was to find out how to use the teas in cook­ing: “Which teas were good for us­ing as a crust when pan sear­ing or when baked in a cake— Did the fla­vor over­power? Or did the cook­ing ac­tu­ally kill the fla­vor of the tea?

“This took weeks to de­velop and ev­ery tea we were given was used in up to five dif­fer­ent ways in try­ing to cre­ate a dish. Noth­ing was left to chance and ev­ery av­enue to the art of tea mak­ing and cook­ing tech­niques was ex­plored.”

Inthe end, the Is­land Shangri-La team and theHongKong Crick­etClub team tied for the gold. Their cre­ations showed a good un­der­stand­ing of tea and how to use it as an in­gre­di­ent, and in the Is­land Shangri-La’s case, the pre­sen­ta­tion showed a lot of dra­matic flair with their Hol­ly­wood movie-themed pair­ings. The Is­land Shangri-La’s “In the Mood for Love” pair­ing of the re­fresh­ingMag­gie & Tony (nat­u­ral rose­hip and hi­bis­cus) and Clementine Tan­ger­ine with Nuwara Eliya Pekoe Sor­bet was very well re­ceived. The judges said they were im­pressed by the crisp­ness of the pastry and the lovely tex­tures the team pre­sented. This team worked very well to­gether and had a lot of fun while they were pre­sent­ing, with high fives af­ter each dish, all the while be­ing com­pletely pro­fes­sional.

The judg­ing was done by a panel of culi­nary ex­perts and, of course, a tea ex­pert — Dil­han C. Fer­nando, son of Dilmah founder Mer­rill J. Fer­nando. He was joined by high­pro­file chefs Bernd Uber and Peter Ku­ru­vita. Since its launch, the Dilmah Real High Tea Chal­lenge has taken place in coun­tries in­clud­ing Aus­tralia, Sin­ga­pore and the Nether­lands. Points are awarded based on a World As­so­ci­a­tion of Chefs So­ci­eties-ap­proved point sys­tem.

“We were ex­tremely im­pressed by the high stan­dard demon­strated,” Fer­nando said at the end of com­pe­ti­tion in Hong Kong. “We look for­ward to wel­com­ing to­day’s win­ners to our beau­ti­ful Tea School in Sri Lanka to com­pete in Dilmah’s Real High Tea Global Chal­lenge in early 2015.”

High tea has def­i­nitely been trans­formed for me. It is now not only a time to re­lax and recharge, it has also be­come a time formeto learn to sa­vormy cup of tea and truly en­joy the ex­pe­ri­ence.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.